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Spring is an important time for cultures and religions across the globe as many celebrate and welcome the beginning of a new season. As these events approach, the IU School of Medicine community can be mindful to consider such celebrations when interacting with learners, colleagues and patients.

Celebrating Spring: Considerations for Interfaith Community Members

yellow tulips with a bright sun and blue sky behind them

Spring is an important time for cultures and religions across the globe as many celebrate and welcome the beginning of a new season. As these events approach, the IU School of Medicine community can be mindful to consider such celebrations when interacting with learners, colleagues and patients.

Learn about upcoming spring holidays and health and wellness considerations to keep in mind. The holidays below span March through April 2022.

Maha Shivratri

March 1, 2022

Meaning “The Great Night of Shiva,” Maha Shivatri is a festival celebrating Lord Shiva—one of the three major and significant deities in Hinduism. Maha Shivratri occurs between mid-February and mid-March on the Gregorian calendar. It is a major cultural and spiritual event in the Hindu faith dedicated to growth and wisdom. The event is observed for a full day and is marked by earnest self-reflection and introspection. Followers across the Hindu faith may observe Maha Shivratri differently, but this solemn day is typically marked by ceremonial worship and fasting.

Things to consider:  Maha Shivratri is one of the most auspicious and holy holidays in Hinduism.  Provide opportunities for workflow and deadlines to be adjusted for learners and colleagues.


March 2, 2022 – April 14, 2022

Lent is a season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving in the Christian faith in preparation for Easter. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (March 2) and ends at sundown on Holy Thursday (April 14). Lent is observed for 40 days, and for 46 days in Orthodox Christian communities. Lenten fasting varies across traditions and cultural communities.  

Naw Ruz (No Rouz, Nowruz, or Noruz)

March 20, 2022

flowers food and candles on a table prepared for naw ruz or persian new year

Naw Ruz, or New Day, is celebrated annually by millions of people from many religions and cultures throughout the world. Also called Persian New Year, Naw Ruz is celebrated on spring equinox, the first day of the solar calendar. Naw Ruz signals the beginning of a new year in Iran and Afghanistan, within the Baha’I faith and by Kurdish and Parsi people both in the Middle East and throughout the world. Naw Ruz is a time for family and community togetherness to welcome new beginnings and shed the past. While traditions and observations vary across countries and communities, some typical Naw Ruz preparations include deep cleaning and decluttering the home, collecting water as a symbol of prosperity, ceremonial dance and jumping over fires, and remembering the dead by lighting candles and visiting cemeteries. A common custom followed by many is the Haft Sin (pronounced Haft Seen) table. Tables are arranged with seven items that begin with the Farsi letter ‘S.’ Items like apples, vinegar, garlic, and wheat symbolize happiness, prosperity, health and wealth in the new year. Painted eggs, mirrors, candles, fruit and water are also used to decorate the table. Although traditions may vary throughout the world, it is most common for families and communities to gather, feast and celebrate together.

Spring Equinox, Ostara, Alban Eilir

March 20, 2022

This date marks the astronomical first day of spring for the northern hemisphere and signifies near-equal hours of daylight and darkness. It has been recognized or celebrated as a time of renewal for thousands of years and many marked the time with practices and traditions related to planting the year’s new crop. To recognize the day, many participate in rituals that acknowledge balance, new life and new beginnings. Ceremonial alters may be created and decorated using colors found in nature during this time of year such as green, purple, and yellow, with common spring flowers, a basket of eggs, statues of gods or goddesses, figurines, gemstones, crystals and more. Most who celebrate Spring Equinox with an altar strive to use items that they can find in nature, and those who celebrate may participate in an individual or community prayer ritual outdoors to welcome and acknowledge the arrival of spring.

Pesach (Passover)

April 15 – 23, 2022

matzah and a silver wine glass representing the jewish holiday of passoverPesach, or Passover, is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the Biblical account of how ancient Israelis were freed from enslavement by Egyptian Pharaohs when a plague that resulted in the death of Egyptian firstborn children “passed over” the homes of Israelis. The first two (April 15 and 16) and last two (April 22 and 23) days of Passover are especially auspicious and activities like driving, working and attending class may be limited or prohibited. The Seder, occurring on the first two nights, is a festive occasion that includes ritual foods like matzah (crisp, unleavened flatbread) and maror (bitter herbs) and the story of Passover is retold. During Passover, most members of the Jewish faith avoid foods made from fermented wheat, rye, spelt, barley and oats. Some may avoid processed food not identified as specifically kosher for Passover. Some companies may alter their typically kosher products to meet Passover restrictions, and an organization call the Orthodox Union maintains a list of Passover foods.

Things to consider:  Avoid scheduling important academic deadlines, events and activities on the first two and last two days of the holiday, provide food accommodation as requested (kosher restrictions apply—the use of leavening is prohibited so, for example, matzah is eaten in place of bread.)


April 17/April 24 (Orthodox communities)

Easter is the most important observance and celebration in the Christian calendar. It celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is the culmination of several important observations, celebrations and events in the Christian faith including, but not limited to:

  • Lent (Please see the explanation above)
  • Palm Sunday: It is the first day of Holy Week and celebrates Jesus's arrival in Jerusalem.Anglican and Roman Catholic churches give out small crosses made from palm leaves, as a reminder of Jesus's entrance into Jerusalem and his death on the cross. These observations can vary across communities.
  • Good Friday: Good Friday is the Friday before Easter Sunday. It commemorates the execution of Jesus by crucifixion. Good Friday is a day of mourning in church.

Things to consider: Avoid scheduling important academic deadlines, events and activities in the days approaching or following the holiday.

Notes for faculty and clinicians regarding learners and trainees observing spring holidays and cultural days of observance

Events and programming

  • Be mindful of spring holidays and days of observance. Reference multicultural and interfaith calendars to ensure that events and critical deadlines do not conflict with holidays.
  • If serving food at events, provide dietary accommodations for attendees that are inclusive of diversity dietary restrictions and fasting guidelines.

For faculty and instructors in virtual classrooms

  • Though we are now utilizing virtual learning, students who are fasting will still experience fatigue. Be aware of the times of day that assessments and exams are administered.
  • Record lectures when possible.
  • Be mindful of your physical actions and statements during virtual class experiences. Try not to eat or drink on camera during virtual sessions.
  • Be conscious of the time deadlines given for assignments and assessments/exams.

Supporting students in clinical spaces

  • Seek support from chaplaincy services within your hospital. Chaplains and spiritual health care support can be a great resource for trainees and physicians in finding solutions and troubleshooting solutions for engaging trainees and patients.
  • Trainees who are fasting may experience fatigue throughout the day.
  • Be knowledgeable of where wellness and prayer rooms are in your facility.
  • If your facility does not have an official wellness room or prayer room, identify spaces that can be used in the interim.

Recommendations for everyone

  • Be mindful of how you make announcements, so as not to target specific students.
  • Do not assume all members of a religious community are fasting. There are several reasons as to why a person is not fasting. It is also not appropriate to ask why a person is not fasting.
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The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.